Published: Aug. 30, 2021
Headshot of María

María J. Ruíz-Martínez is a fifth year PhD student studying Education. Her research sits at the intersection of education, ethnic studies, and linguistics and examines how diasporic translingual youth use visual culture production to learn and teach across home, school, and community contexts. María was recently awarded a Teaching Excellence Award based on her teaching philosophy and dedication to her students. We asked María a few questions to learn more about her as a teacher and get to know her better. Read more below!

What is your favorite part about teaching?

Co-creating learning spaces with students of all ages! I never want to be far from the wonder of a preschooler who touches clay for the first time, the quizzical look of a middle schooler contemplating the world from a new perspective, the angst and excitement of a high school graduate uncertain about what comes next, and the awe and hard work of teacher candidates as they learn what being a teacher “really” means.

Please tell us a bit about your pedagogical philosophy.

I understand learning as a social, collective, and collaborative activity predicated on trusting relationships. Learners are not passive recipients of knowledge, but rather are (and need to be) active participants engaged in a process that takes place over time, requires multiple points of entry, accepts and builds from approximations and partial understandings, requires patience and persistence, and is a process of steps forward, backward, and sideways, always willing to incorporate that which we did not expect.

What is a favorite teaching resource you would like to share with other graduate teachers?

A resource I (re)visit frequently is Django Paris and H. Samy Alim's edited book Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies: Teaching and Learning for Justice in a Changing World.

What is a good book you have read recently and why did you enjoy it?

I recently engaged Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes' Translocas: The Politics of Puerto Rican Drag and Trans Performance. This interdisciplinary and auto-ethnographic project beautifully captures the lives and work of Latinx “locas” (effeminate men, drag queens, transgender performers, and unruly women) as they oscillate between glamour and abjection in Puerto Rico and the diaspora. The nuanced queer-of-color articulation of communal ritual between the performers and their audience was particularly thought-provoking.